how to set healthy boundaries during the holidays.

How to Set Boundaries During the Holidays and Kindly Say No

The holiday season is a time of joy, celebration, and connection with loved ones. If we’re honest though, it’s also a time for stress, feeling overwhelmed, and a seemingly never-ending to-do list.

Amidst the festivities, it’s easy to get lost in the rush and allow ourselves to be stretched thin trying to accommodate everyone else’s expectations. This year, especially in 2023, when there is so much going on in the world that living life itself can be challenging, let’s make a conscious effort to prioritize our well-being by learning the art of asking for what we want, setting healthy boundaries, and practicing mindfulness.

Reflect on Your Needs – Practice Mindfulness

Before diving into the holiday hustle, take a moment to reflect on your own needs and desires. What activities bring you joy during this season? Are there particular traditions you hold dear? Sure, there will be some things that need to get done that you don’t enjoy. That’s life. But deciding before the chaos begins that you’re going to allow yourself the freedom to say no to invitations or requests that you may not have the capacity to enjoy fully is a gift not only to yourself but to others, too. By understanding your priorities, you can better communicate your wishes to those around you.

Communicate Openly

how to say no during the holidays.Although it may feel intimidating or unnatural at first, effective communication is key to expressing your desires and setting boundaries. The more you share your thoughts and feelings with loved ones in a clear and open manner, the more you’ll begin to realize that others have their own thoughts and feelings to share. Whether it’s expressing your wish for a low-key holiday or a desire to participate in specific activities, opening this dialogue amongst your family and loved ones is a great way to take the pressure off and let others know what will make your holiday season fulfilling. And what better time to start than now?

Be Assertive, Not Aggressive

As you start talking, you could run into some pushback. This is where you may find the generational divides in your family to be the most obvious. We always want to be respectful of family values and traditions while still honoring our own needs. The world in 2023 is entirely different and suffice it to say more challenging than it was even 10 years ago. It’s not selfish to prioritize your well-being, nor to encourage others to do the same. Assertiveness is a valuable skill when it comes to asking for what you want. It involves expressing your needs and preferences confidently without infringing on the rights of others. Avoid being aggressive or confrontational; instead, strive for open dialogue and mutual understanding. Remember, even if a family member is pushing for something different from what you want, you’re still on the same team. After all, they are your loved ones, and you all just want to create beautiful holiday memories.

Set Realistic Expectations

The holiday season often comes with a flurry of expectations, both from ourselves and others. Setting realistic expectations can help alleviate stress and prevent disappointment. You know that feeling we’ve all been feeling for a while now? We’re all just tired. Everyone is looking for shortcuts. Be honest about your capacity and communicate any limitations you might have, whether they relate to time, energy, or resources. With all that’s going on outside of the normal hustle and bustle of the holidays, each of our tanks is already running low. It’s okay to acknowledge that. You may be surprised once you start discussing expectations with your loved ones. That one aunt who usually expects a huge production may secretly be hoping for a small, quiet holiday this year.

Learn to Say No

Saying no can be challenging for a lot of us, especially during the holidays when it seems like there’s a new invitation or request every other day. Learning to say no takes practice and does get easier the more you do it. So, the holidays are definitely a good time to practice. Saying no probably is one of the hardest steps to perfect when it comes to setting boundaries, though. The best tip I’ve ever heard when it comes to politely declining an invitation is that you don’t need to give a reason. It’s our natural inclination to provide a reason for our “no”. “I’m sorry I can’t, I have to work.” Or “I’m sorry I’d love to come, but I’m not feeling well.” Whatever the reason… the thing is, the reason is superfluous. Politely but firmly decline invitations or activities that don’t align with your priorities or may compromise your well-being and leave it at that. “I’m sorry. I can’t make it. Have a great time though!” That’s all. I know, easier said than done. You’ve got this!

Collaborate on Traditions

healthy holiday boundaries for family.Traditions play a significant role in holiday celebrations. If there are specific traditions that are important to you and your loved ones, collaborate with one another to find a compromise that respects everyone’s wishes. This could involve creating new traditions or finding a middle ground that accommodates various preferences. The key here is to involve everyone and to acknowledge that although you may not plan to participate in each holiday event as you have in the past, that traditions are meaningful to you. You also must give yourself the permission to disappoint someone. Allowing for this before you enter into a conversation around boundaries or compromises will be liberating when it comes to any guilt associated with not showing up for what feels like an important tradition. Memories can still be made and moments can still be treasured without the sacrifice of your well-being.                          

Practice Self-Care

Amidst the holiday chaos, don’t forget to prioritize self-care. Taking care of your physical, emotional, and mental well-being is crucial. Schedule time for activities that bring you joy and relaxation, whether it’s reading a book, taking a walk, or simply enjoying some quiet time.

Ask for Help if You Need It

This holiday season, make a conscious effort to prioritize your needs and set boundaries that promote a sense of well-being. By communicating openly, being assertive, and practicing self-care, you can create a holiday experience that aligns with your values and allows you to truly enjoy the season with your loved ones. Remember, it’s okay to ask for what you want and set boundaries that support your overall happiness and if you need it, we’re here to help you process any unhealed trauma that the holidays may bring up.


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